The lessons learned from HIV and AIDS can be used to inform the COVID-19 response as the challenges are similar.
Many of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials are taking place in multiple countries, including South Africa. The capacity to conduct these studies, including the clinical staff and trial sites, are well established as a result of decades of HIV/AIDS research. There are fears that developing nations might be excluded from accessing an effective COVID-19 vaccine. But global mechanisms are now in place to avoid this and to, instead, encourage and enable global solidarity, some of which were championed by the HIV/AIDS response.
The Access to COVID-9 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator, established by the World Health Organization in April 2020 in collaboration with many other global organizations, governments, civil society and industry, have committed through the pillar known as Covax, to equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as diagnostic tests and treatments. These global institutions and mechanisms require continued support.
With the deployment of an effective vaccine, an end to COVID-19 might soon be in sight. For HIV, vaccine development has been more complex and disappointing. The global community needs to remain committed to promoting access and support for the many incredible prevention and treatment options that are available. The unprecedented effort on the part of private industry in the COVID-19 vaccine response shines a light on what can be achieved when all interested parties engage. The HIV and tuberculosis vaccine endeavors need a similar effort.
These are not the only pandemics the world will face. In fact, there are strong predictions that the emergence of new pandemics will increase in the future. This is because of globalization, climate change and proximity to wildlife.
The best hope for humanity is to not lose sight of what these pandemics cost us in terms of loved ones, in terms of freedom and economically. We must prepare now collectively across countries and across all levels of society. These preparations need to be grounded in the lessons learned from HIV/AIDS and re-learned from COVID-19.